In a previous post, I pointed out that the best thing the Tories can do as far as any independence debate in Scotland is concerned is shut up, keep yer cool and let Alex Salmond feck it all up on his own steam. Unfortunately, they seem determined to do what Id feared they would – meddle. And as I pointed out before, the biggest threat to the union is not our SNP chums but the Tories themselves.
Let us consider their proposals, they want a straight In or Out referendum rather than the one that allows the Devo Max option (no, thats not a new soft drink! ;D) that many people in Scotland seem to favour instead of independence. The Torys want to hold the referendum sooner rather than later, as they recognise that nothing gets the blood of Scots boiling any more than a penny pinching Tory party in charge down in Westminster. It also screws up their cuts regime as it means they dare not cut any of the Scottish budget with an independence referendum looming on the horizon.
Unfortunately such a strategy ignores the fact that referendums are seldom decided by rational decision making, as I commented on in the run up to the AV referendum. Im neutral on the issue of Scottish independence, I think long term its a good idea but the timing has to be right and the conditions and background to prepare for it must be properly sorted first. Clearly in the middle of one of the worse recessions in recent global history is about the worst time imaginable to launch an independence bid. It would be silly for anyone to start talking about picking a date now as nobody knows what state well be in come 2014 (when the SNP plan to have the vote). There would also be a lot of ground work to be done first, and theres just not the time to do it. Consequently I would probably vote NO on that basis…but if I was forced into voting on this earlier than even the SNP think is wise by a meddling Westminster government, who appear to be trying to point a gun to the Scottish peoples head (with a In or Out) Id probably vote for independence, if given the chance (just moved to England unfortunately), just to wipe that smug grin off of Camerons face!
And unfortunately for the Tories, given that they are about as popular in some parts of Scotland as pig manure, quite a number of Scots who would otherwise vote NO, will likewise vote YES just to stick it to the Conservatives, as inevitably some will see a Tory enacted referendum as a referendum on the tory cuts, and as we all know sitting governments tend to loose such elections. Exactly how many this Tory meddling swing into the YES camp is the question, but it could easily be enough to tip a close election into the SNPs favour.
In short if Cameron plans to derail the independence movement with this action he should realise that this will likely back fire badly! Even if Alex Salmond looses by a slim majority, the pressure Cameron will come under to yield more powers to Holyrood, or hold another referendum in the not too distant future will be immense.
Referendums you see are fickle affairs. I should know, as Im Irish and as many of ye should know we regularly vote NO on a topic (typically EU treaties) then turn around a few months later and vote YES on them! The first Lisbon treaty referendum was lost in part due to screw ups by the then Fianna Fail government, one of whose ministers admitted to never actually having read the Lisbon treaty and then said anyone would be mad to do so. Then there was the scare tactics of the anti-treaty lot, with the usual threats to farm subsides going, a minimum wage of 2 euros (well that one seems to have happened anyway!), us being forced to join NATO, compulsory gay marriage for all Catholics, a crack in the earth opening, etc. All tosh :lalala:, but it did scare a few people away from voting in favour. Similarly the second vote in favour was in part influenced by a certain Mr Farage from the UK. The UKIP boss came to Ireland to try and convince people to vote NO. But most took one look at him and decided that if this upper class twit was against the Lisbon treaty, they were in favour of it! :))
Recent polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of Irish are still favourable towards the euro however if forced into an In or Out referendum and the latest EU treaty changes (the French and Germans are trying to insist on this to prevent further delays due to Irish dithering) the polls also suggest that the Irish will call Merkels bluff and vote NO…likely triggering a messy Irish exit from the Euro and a rapid collapse of the currency once Irelands 1 trillion euros in public and private debts ends up on the balance sheet of European banks. ..and 100 billion of that is owed to British banks btw!
But I digress, the point is trying to bully an electorate into voting the way you want them to is a dangerous game, it can, and usually will backfire – badly! And its not unhead of for electorates to hold diametrically opposed and self contradicting opinions. After all many tea partiers in the US want “big government off of our backs”..yet they live in states whose economy would collapse without big government subsidies (I discuss that further here)…or they can be pro-life but also want the death penalty – go figure!
Furthermore, theres nothing that obliges the SNP to do anything the Tories say. Salmond could wait until the day after the Torys deadline has expired (just to rub it in their faces!) and then hold the referendum. What the Scotland act says, or whatever opinion can be bribed out of lawyer in London matters little on this issue the sovereignty of a nation has and is always decided upon by its people (when not decided at the tips of shiny spears!). Any pesky rule than inconveniences this reality can be undone with a simple act of Parliament (in Holyrood mind!) or simply ignored.
And theres precedence here, of the many of the former colonies that broke away from the UK or other European powers, you can count on one hand the number that did so by ticking all the correct legal boxes. Many simply bypassed or ignored any pesky rules imposed by the former colonial masters. For example both Ireland and India were saddled with various strings post-independence, that we had to remain in the Commonwealth, have the Queen as head of state, swear allegiance, etc. Within a few short years or decades all these British imposed conditions were quietly written out of the Constitution and any protests from London were simply ignored or indeed openly laughed at! Famously for example De Valera gave the job of Lieutenant governor of Ireland (the queens official representative) to a Dublin Publican buddy of his, as sort of a joke!
I mean seriously lets suppose for sake of argument that the Scots did vote in favour of independence in Autumn 2014, what is Cameron going to do about? Say well paragraph 4 of the Scotland act says we can now ignore the will of the Scottish people and tell ye all to eat humble haggis Mugabe and al-Assad will have field day with that one! Maybe Cameron will send in the Army…oh wait, half of thats Scottish…damn! :>> How about the Trident missiles…nope! Theyre made in America and based in Scotland too! double damn! Maybe hell turn off the oil and gas…nope! Thats all in Scotland too! And as I pointed out before as regards Scotland’s oil and gas the other important rule of geopolitics is that possession is 9/10’s of ownership.
In short, in the (highly unlikely) event that Alex Salmond gets his way theres little the Torys can do other than go whistle dixie!
Of course I empathise with Camerons position. A good deal of the right wing of his party >:-[ are hopping foot to foot over Scotland, whom they see as a bunch of soap shy, labour voting benefit scroungers. On which point, btw Stephanie Flanders at the Beeb has an interesting article out about the Scottish deficit which shows that the situation is a bit more murky than either the Tory’s or SNP would have you believe. The pressure on Cameron to do something from his backbenchers and toff buddies has been immense in recent months. But the Tories need to realise that the greatest threat to the union right now is not Alex Salmond, but themselves!
Therefore I must recommend that any Tory who is struck by the sudden urge to lecture the Scots about how and why they should reject independence, follow this prescription:
– Find a large kitchen Spatula
– bash yourself over the head with it
– repeat as required!